A new self-referral walk-in Covid-19 test clinic is to open in Limerick next Monday as the city and county deals with a higher level of the virus than when cases surged to “worrying” levels a month ago.
The Director of Public Health Mid West, Dr Mai Mannix, today urged unvaccinated people to arrange to get the vaccine jab and avail of free testing clinics around the city and county, as her team of public health officials and contact tracers manages “large workplace outbreaks”.
Dr Mannix warned: “The current level of COVID-19 is still higher than it was when we first noticed a worrying trend a month ago, and we continue to manage large workplace outbreaks and a significant level of close contacts being identified in local businesses.”
“We also continue to manage large outbreaks connected to indoor social activity, including house parties among unvaccinated people. This kind of high-risk activity will keep infection levels at a high level, and will continue to cause disruption in a wide variety of settings in the community.
Dr Mannix said she was also concerned at the emergence of mutant strains of the virus in the region including up to 20 cases of the so-called Indian (Delta / B.1.617.2), Brazilian (Gamma / P.1) and South African (Beta / B.1.351) “variants of concern or VOCs”.
Despite dwindling numbers of covid patients requiring treatment in intensive care at university hospital limerick, Dr mannix warned that the “increased presence of a new, more transmissible variant of COVID-19, would pose an increased risk of infection among the population, including vulnerable and unvaccinated population”.
“A more transmissible variant means there would be a greater chance of outbreaks in communities among unvaccinated people, therefore a greater chance of people becoming seriously ill with this disease,” Dr Mannix said.
Despite the continued looming threat of the variants, Limerick’s daily case numbers have been steadily reducing in the past week, from 78 last Friday to 27 yesterday, however Public Health Mid-West said it is “currently managing COVID-19 situations in 48 workplaces, involving 142 cases and an estimated 198 close contacts”.
“The vast majority of these workplaces are in Limerick, and are in retail, supermarkets, offices, salons, beauticians, and factories.”
It remained “concerned about the spread of VOCs internationally, including the Delta variant which is becoming increasingly prevalent in the United Kingdom, and adopts a cautious approach where there is a concern about a suspected VOC”.
All cases found in Limerick are being sequenced for variants, however this process is taking a number of weeks.
The HSE is to open a new self-referral walk-in clinic at the at the former Tourist Office’s at Arthurs Quay Park in Limerick City Centre, from 11am-7pm, next Monday to Wednesday evening.
“We are particularly encouraging those who are young, unvaccinated and may have attended large gatherings in the last two weeks to attend for testing, and we are urging businesses to encourage their staff to avail of this clinic.”
A free walk-in test service is also available at St Joseph’s Health Campus, Mulgrave Street, which has been extended to operate until Monday June 28 inclusive, and a permanent test site is running at Eastpoint Business Park on the Ballysimon Road.
A month-long active case finding operation, led by Public Health Mid-West, following a sharp increase in mid-May, found that between May 21 and June 16, more than 25,000 people have been tested with more than 1,450 cases detected in Limerick.
“The public has shown great leadership in their response to this large community outbreak. Even though we are seeing COVID trends go in the right direction in Limerick, we remain concerned about the current prevalence of infection in the community,” Dr Mannix said.